On Monday July 13, the Flyers extended defenseman Mark Friedman for two years at $1.45 million with a cap hit of $725,000. While it’s not overly surprising they brought Friedman back, the fact he was the first defenseman to re-sign paints an interesting picture for the future of the Flyers blue line.
Friedman played six games for the Flyers during the 2019-20 season and recorded a single assist in that time. He suited up for 45 games for the Phantoms and racked up 18 points. The 24-year-old will probably take the role of the sixth or seventh defenseman for the Flyers next season.
The Flyers top four is set, Provorov and Niskanen have the top spots locked down and Sanheim and Myers will patrol the second pair. The third pair was a revolving door of defenseman due to injuries and inconsistent play, though Braun and Hagg played the most, with 62 and 49 games respectively. Gostisbehere played in 42, though only eight of those games were after Christmas thanks to a mixture of a knee injury and a benching by coach Alain Vigneault.
For next season, the Flyers currently have six defenseman under contract, being- Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, and now Mark Friedman. That leaves Justin Braun as an UFA and Phil Myers and Robert Hagg as RFA’s. It’s only a matter of time before they re-sign Myers, but what happens to the rest of the Flyers defense and where does Friedman fit?
Option 1 would see Friedman as a full-time NHL defenseman next season. Chances are Hagg seeks a pay raise and Braun ends up with a similar price tag to his current $3.8 million, which isn’t a great scenario for the Flyers bottom line. Friedman and Morin’s combined cap hit clock in at $1,425,000, which would be far cheaper than bringing back Braun and Hagg. That would leave Friedman, Morin, and Ghost to fill out the fifth, sixth, and seventh defenseman roles for the Flyers.
Option 2 may be the more interesting, yet best option, and that being Friedman being a cheap plug on the blueline and trading Shayne Gostisbehere. Ghost, who essentially lost his roster spot late in the season, is an expensive player to have sitting in the press box especially since the salary cap isn’t going up anytime soon. His $4.5 million price tag will probably be among first to be dumped if things get tight. Friedman and his $725,000 cap hit is much more manageable to keep on the bench, or even potentially back in the minors. Getting rid of Ghost’s cap hit should provide a good chunk of the cash needed to re-sign Braun, Myers, and Hagg for next season.
Mark Friedman is back for two more years and give the Flyers plenty of options as far as their plan for the blueline next season. What the Flyers end up doing is yet to be seen. Is it the beginning of a huge power move by Fletcher? Is it just a way to keep their most NHL-ready defense prospect in the system a little longer? Guess we’ll find out in the coming months as more signings and trades take place.
by: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: Bob Fina insidehockey.com